Daniel W. Pratt

Daniel W. Pratt is Assistant Professor of Slavic Literature in the Department of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures at McGill University.

He graduated with an AB from Princeton in Comparative Literature and received his MA and PhD in Slavic Languages and Culture from the University of Chicago. His work concentrates on Central and Eastern European culture, including Polish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Austrian, and Russian, from the 19th century to the present.

Daniel W. Pratt is interested in the intersections of philosophy and literature, history and narrative, aesthetics and ethics, world literature and the socialist world, and underground and dissident culture in Central Europe. He has written on Gombrowicz, World Literature, Bohumil Hrabal, Venedikt Erofeev, and the meaning of history. His current book project is on non-narrative constructions of temporality in Central Europe, and his other book project is on the second generation of the underground.

Research project: Against Narrative: Constructing Temporality in Central Europe

Doctor Daniel Pratt's current project Against Narrative: Constructing Temporalities in Central Europe examines the temporal constructions of Central European authors who have used collage, Essayism, fragmentation, anecdote, and spectral trace to understand the relationship of past, present, and future. In the late nineteen-seventies and early eigthies, Paul Ricoeur, Jerome Bruner, and Charles Taylor, among others, claimed that narrative was the only way to humanize time, to make time understandable for our lived experience, and to organize that experience ethically. This interpretation became, and remains, the standard, despite objections such as Galen Strawson’s influential critique that, not only does narrative fail to explain and humanize time, but it also fails to live up to the normative claims. His book begins with Strawson’s episodic account of understanding time and proceeds to develop alternative understandings through the avant-garde principle of collage, as seen in Rainier Maria Rilke and Bohumil Hrabal, Robert Musil’s Essayism and its reflexes in Milan Kundera, and Witold Gombrowicz, as well as the modern and postmodern fragmentation of Péter Esterházy, the anecdotes and pub stories of Jaroslav Hašek and Hrabal, and Derridian traces in Olga Tokarczuk.

His second project Against Everything: Second Generation Dissent shifts focus to the late dissident period in Central Europe, when dissident groups not only rebelled against the government, but also against the previous generation of opposition. Most studies of the dissident movements focus on either the political leaders, such as Lech Wałęsa and Adam Michnik, or the intellectual elites, such as Václav Havel, János Kis, and György Konrád, all of whom emerged in the 1960s. Much less attention has been paid to the second generation of dissent, to those that emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s who continue to play a vital role in politics and culture today. This second generation saw the earlier dissidents as another group to attack, as can be seen in three major journals: Revolver Review from Czechoslovakia, bruLion from Poland, and Jelenlét from Hungary. The founding editors of these journals Jachym Topol, Robert Tekieli, and László Garaczi once cooperated in the Socialist period and for a few years afterwards, but they have moved in opposite directions with Tekieli becoming a mouthpiece for the far-right movement in Poland, Topol maintaining a foot in leftist politics, and Garaczi eschewing politics altogether. The book examines how this second generation carved out space between the government and dissent, looking beyond the traditional high-minded literature of the initial phase of dissent and into more popular forms such as music, especially punk rock, and zines.

Dates of stay: 1 March - 31 July 2021